Article first appeared 7/13/08
This is our weekly look at the free agents in each league. We have two goals with this article:
One size doesn't fit all, and we could never hope to encompass all league structures, so we have to have a set of base assumptions. Those assumptions are:
Clay Buchholz - Buchholz was plagued by the same problem in his first start back that forced him to the minors in the first place - his control. He struck out six Orioles, but he also walked five and gave up five hits to give up four earned runs. Your investment decision on Buchholz depends a little on the structure of your league (keeper or redraft), where you are in the overall standings, and in particular where you sit in strikeouts and WHIP. Right now context plays such a big part in your decision - if you're sitting in the middle or bottom of the standings, it's time to take a few risks, unless you're protecting a good overall WHIP. Buchholz has so much strikeout upside, it's really tempting to go after him, but he's very volatile. Mixed: $5; AL: $15.
Sean Gallagher - Gallagher started his A's career on the right foot on Friday night, holding the Angels to two runs over seven innings to get the win. Gallagher might not profile to be an ace, and he could have his ups-and-downs this year, but there's a lot to like about him in the long run. His strikeout rate is useful, he'll have a good ballpark to ply his wares, but he could stand to cut down on his walks. Mixed: $7; AL: $20.
Matt Ginter - Ginter threw five shutout innings against the slumping Rays on Saturday, and he might pick up a few more starts after the break. Jeremy Sowers has been nothing short of awful, so it could be Sowers and not Ginter that gets sent back down to Triple-A Buffalo when Fausto Carmona is eventually to return from the DL. Don't confuse that projection of opportunity as an endorsement of Ginter, however - he's a career "4-A" pitcher with a mediocre strikeout rate and overall track record. The odds on him having an Aaron Small second half are pretty slim. Mixed: No; AL: $0.
Dustin Moseley - By the time you try to pick up Moseley, chances are he'll be already gone. His start on Sunday against the A's is a one-off, and even if it weren't, he hasn't adequately bounced back from his offseason elbow procedure, going 5-5 with a 5.88 ERA for Triple-A Salt Lake in 67.1 innings, allowing 14 homers. Mixed and AL: No.
John Parrish - We've already covered Parrish's merits, but just want to note that he's earned additional job security with the news of Dustin McGowan's shoulder injury. We could be looking at seeing Parrish in the rotation for the rest of the season. He's a possible "streaming" candidate, but not a building block for the future. Mixed: $0; AL: $1.
Jeff Weaver - The Indians recently signed Weaver to a minor league deal, leading to speculation that he and not Ginter would replace Sabathia in the rotation. That might eventually happen, but he needs to build his innings up first. Weaver didn't pitch well in his previous Triple-A stint at Nashville, posting a 6.22 ERA in 55 innings, and lasted just three innings in his first start for Buffalo. It may be awhile, if ever, before he's ready for his shot with the Tribe. Mixed and AL: No.
Dallas Braden - Braden is back on the shuttle from Sacramento, filling in Chad Guadin's spot in the bullpen following the trade of him and Rich Harden to the Cubs. Braden has pitched pretty well for Sacramento this year, though he still has some issues with the longball (seven allowed in 53.1 innings there). Ultimately, he could fit in nicely as a swingman for the A's, maybe even securing the fifth starter's spot for a while. In a deep league, that has some value. In your standard 12-team mixed, not-so-much. Mixed: No; AL: $0.
D.J. Carrasco - Carrasco bailed out the White Sox bullpen on Friday, pitching 5.1 innings in relief of an ineffective Gavin Floyd, holding the Rangers to one run while striking out five. Given the depth of the White Sox bullpen, it would take quite a string of events to put Carrasco into a key late-inning role. You're better off hoping he somehow slides into the rotation. Mixed and AL: No.
Octavio Dotel - Trying to capitalize on Bobby Jenks' back injury has been a pretty frustrating exercise so far. Dotel got his owners one save while striking out the side (if they picked him up in time), but nothing in his last two appearances. Most of Dotel's numbers this season have been pretty good, especially his strikeout rate, though he's walked 21 batters in 42.1 innings. Unfortunately for those that picked up Dotel, Jenks is due back immediately after the All-Star break. Mixed: $0; AL: $3.
Juan Rincon - Don't count on Rincon recapturing any of his previous glory with the Indians, even with them auditioning the late-inning roles. Even though Rincon says that his recent woes are mechanical in nature, we tend to think that someone would have ironed them out by now if that were the case. Mixed and AL: No.
Matt Thornton - Thornton has pitched awfully well this season, with a 2.39 ERA, 46:9 K:BB and a 1.72 G/F in 37.2 innings. He's behind Dotel and Scott Linebrink for traditional save opportunities whenever Jenks is unavailable, but could sneak in a few here and there when the situation calls for a lefty. In 4x4 leagues, he's the type of low-cost set-up guy that can be really valuable. Mixed: $0; AL: $1.
Ryan Budde - 28 year-old rookies rarely make good fantasy prospects, and that's the case with Budde. He's up merely as a caddy for Jeff Mathis while Michael Napoli remains on the DL. Even if he were to stumble into playing time, he wasn't hitting at Salt Lake before his promotion (.200/.260/.319). Mixed and AL: No.
Toby Hall - A.J. Pierzynski's ankle injury doesn't appear to be serious, but if it worsens over the break, it would be Hall who could get a couple of weeks of playing time. Hall has to be in the 99th percentile of the slowest runners in the league. Catchers are generally slow, but he's among the elite in that characteristic. He loses a few extra-base hits because of that each year. Mixed: No; AL: $0.
Brandon Inge - With Sunday's game, Inge now has 20 games at catcher this season, making him eligible again there next season in many leagues. If you're looking for a low-average, decent power option for the position, there you go. It's pretty likely that the 27-homer season he had in 2006 is an outlier - even with regular playing time, 12-16 homers seems like a more probable result from Inge. Mixed: $0; AL: $2.
Miguel Cairo - While the Mariners have been praised for finally cutting ties with Richie "body language" Sexson, what did they leave themselves with at first base? Don't be so quick to award a "Profile in Courage" to interim general manager Lee Pelekoudas. The end result is that they're playing Cairo and Jose Vidro in a platoon at first base. How is that a good thing? It's really unconscionable that they can't find a better alternative here. Cairo was in a death match with teammate Willie Bloomquist for latest at-bat in the season for an extra-base hit, and while he "lost" that, he has all of four extra-base hits in 88 at-bats. I don't care if you're Vic Powers down there defensively, that's just unsustainable. What's keep the Mariners from getting Raul Ibanez out of left field and over to first base, and calling up Wladimir Balentien? Or finding one of the countless Triple-A first base alternatives on the cheap to play the position, since they don't trust their own such option, Bryan LaHair? And why not give LaHair a shot? He's nothing special - an .828 OPS 25-year old playing in the PCL - but he *can't be worse than a combo of Cairo/Vidro. This is one big organizational fail. Mixed: No; AL: $0.
Tug Hulett - Hulett is a poor man's David Eckstein, maybe eventually a rich man's Willie Bloomquist - he's not going to hit for power, but he'll earn all sorts of "scrappy" points (what, that's not a category in your roto league?) with his hustle. He came over in the Ben Broussard trade, so at least the M's got something for nothing, at least for the cost. Of course, he'd be a superior option for them to play instead of Cairo at first base, but that makes too much sense. Mixed: No; AL: $1.
Andy Marte - Once again, the Indians have said that they plan to give Marte more playing time at third base, to see what they've got in him. This time, it might actually be true - I wouldn't be surprised if the edict came from over manager Eric Wedge's head, given the Indians' to be on the seller's market. Including Sunday, Marte has started six of the last eight games. The Indians and GM Mark Shapiro are fearful of letting Marte become the next Brandon Phillips - a prospect that washes out with them, in a somewhat limited trial, and then thrives elsewhere. It's a worthy endeavor to see what Marte can do - despite the disappointment of his tenure in the Indians' organization, he's still just 24 years old. There's some latent talent - can he ever convert it to ability? Like the Mariners with Jeremy Reed and other young players, the Indians have a duty to themselves to play Marte most of the year to find out. Mixed: No; AL: $1.
Alex Cora - Julio Lugo's quadriceps injury is going to keep him out four-to-six weeks, meaning that there should be plenty of playing time to split between Cora and Jed Lowrie. Cora got the nod at shortstop on Sunday after Lowrie started Saturday. During Lugo's last DL stint, Cora was also hurt, so we didn't get to see a perfect preview of what the Red Sox might do this time. It's also possible that they could choose Door #3 and trade for a rent-a-player veteran, but it wouldn't be one that they'd commit to beyond this year, because Lugo is signed beyond 2008. Cora is serviceable as a backup, but overexposed offensively as a starter. Between him and Lowrie, I'd rather gamble on Lowrie. Mixed: $0; AL: $4.
Jed Lowrie - The Red Sox recalled Lowrie after Julio Lugo's quad injury put him on the DL. Lowrie's first stint was decent, not great. He's probably a better offensive player in simulation leagues, where his batting eye plays a bigger part. In a standard roto league, he can help you possibly with batting average and runs scored, but he won't hit for much power, and he doesn't run frequently. Still, compared to Alex Cora, he's a favorable gamble. Mixed: $1; AL: $5.
Adam Jones - The O's recently moved Jones up to second in their batting order, rewarding him for how well he's hit over the last six weeks (.321/.354/.503 since June 1, albeit with a 7:33 BB:K ratio). This is a pretty good spot for his counting stats, slotting between Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis. The trade rumor buzz on Roberts has quieted down, but it could heat up in the next few weeks, lessening Jones' value ever so slightly. Jones' power has been disappointing overall (.405 SLG), but keep in mind that he's doing this as a 22-year old in his first full season. Not every rookie is Ryan Braun off the bat. Jones is a good second-half investment, and still a fantastic keeper. Mixed: $5 (assuming that he's gone in all AL-only leagues).
Kevin Mench - Even with Vernon Wells out, Mench might not find too much playing time. The Jays have committed to playing Adam Lind most of the time, perhaps sitting against tough lefties. That leaves Mench to be picking up the scraps, along with Brad Wilkerson. Mixed: No; AL: $1.
Matt Murton - Is it time to put our "Free Matt Murton" campaign on ice? Maybe … he'll get a run of playing time for the short-term, but there's at least some speculation that the A's acquired Murton to flip him. They'll have to showcase him now, but unless he has a nice run immediately, he could get buried quickly. Once Ryan Sweeney is back, we'll see just how much the A's intend to play Murton. Mixed: $0; AL: $3.
Juan Rivera - A few weeks ago we joked about Rivera's utter lack of playing time, but Rivera's fortunes are starting to change. Finally tiring of Gary Matthews Jr.'s lack of production, manager Mike Scioscia has started Rivera the last five games, usually at Matthews' expense. He's had two homers in his last five starts heading into Sunday, and is better capable of hitting for the power that the Angels so dreadfully lack. Jump now and grab him if you can - if he is anywhere near the hitter he was in 2006, before his crunching winter ball leg injury, you could earn 10 homers over the second half. Mixed: $6; AL: $18.
Brad Wilkerson - Wilkerson's time will come mostly in a platoon with Kevin Mench, now that Vernon Wells is back on the DL. We've held out the hope that the injuries that he had with the Nats and then the Rangers were preventing him from fulfilling his full potential, and when healthy that he'd return to .872 OPS form that he showed in his age-27 season in 2004. That now appears instead to be a peak, one that he doesn't appear to be close to ascending again. Bid if you need the playing time, but that's about all you're going to get. Mixed: $1; AL: $3.
Frank Thomas - There was a buzz at one point that Thomas could come off the DL immediately after the All-Star break, but he's not hitting off of live pitching just yet, and isn't scheduled to do so until Friday, July 18. That pushes his return closer to the end of the month, if not the beginning of August. Before his injury, Thomas gave the A's exactly what they were looking for - good on-base skills and some power from the right-hand side. He's an unlikely trade candidate down the stretch, given his injury and defensive limitations. Mixed and AL: $2 if you can jump the gun.
Matt LaPorta - Contrary to my initial guess, the Indians don't appear to be in any hurry to display their treasure earned from the C.C. Sabathia deal. LaPorta has reported to Double-A Akron and already has six hits, including a homer, in his first four games there. They're moving him from right field to left, so that defensive transition could take awhile. I still think he profiles more as a first baseman, but hey, look at some of the other players teams have passed off as left fielders - Jack Cust, Adam Dunn, and Manny Ramirez, among others. If he continues to rake, it won't be his defense that will hold him back. Still, LaPorta's promotion to the majors might not be imminent.
Eric Patterson - Prior to this season, Patterson had actually started to distance himself from comparisons to his older brother Corey Patterson, walking at a nearly 10 percent rate. That's pretty important for him, because while he has Corey's speed, he doesn't have his power. His bat will project better as a second baseman than as an outfielder, though it remains unclear if the A's will keep him in the outfield, given that they have Mark Ellis manning second now and just spent their first-round pick on a second baseman in Jemile Weeks.
Hayden Penn - Radhames Liz got rocked again on Saturday, this time by the Red Sox, so his rotation spot might be in jeopardy. The problem is that there are no obvious immediate alternatives, including Penn, who earlier spent time on the DL for Triple-A Norfolk with discomfort in his right shoulder. Penn's K-rate has dropped to 5.7 per nine innings this year, and he's posted a 5.08 ERA. They could turn to either Chris Tillman or David Hernandez at Double-A Bowie, but GM Andy MacPhail seems committed to taking a slower developmental path with his top prospects, which isn't necessarily such a bad thing.
David Purcey - Purcey is the owner of one of the worst starts in the majors this year, a three-inning, eight-run special where he walked four and gave up two homers, with no strikeouts. He's having a much better campaign at Triple-A Syracuse, and as one of GM J.P. Ricciardi's first-round picks, he's likely to get a second half look, especially if the Jays trade A.J. Burnett before the deadline, as expected. Just be wary that control has always been a problem for Purcey.